Accessing different kinds of content in China can be challenging given the government firm control over the Internet and unsurprisingly, this includes explicit and sexual content.
In 2002, the People’s Republic of China officially made Internet pornography illegal and two years later, the crackdown seemed to be underway as a Chinese woman was arrested for doing paid adult shows online. So it appeared that China was taking this crackdown very seriously.
By 2008, all forms of pornographic media were made illegal. The government also made it clear that this is not a judgment call that they will likely look back on in the future. It even went to the extent of making any pornography film directors, actors or actresses, and producers ineligible to compete in any film-related competitions.
How Chinese Officials Are Cracking Down on Porn
It is important to touch on the extensiveness of the crackdown on pornography in China. The best way to explain just how determined the Chinese government is to eliminate such content is to look at the number of website closures and arrests that have taken place. In 2010, Reuters reported that 5,000 arrests took place and an overwhelming 60,000 websites were shut down.
It has been in and out of the news every so often. The figures don’t really seem alarming until you have the chance to add them up over a time period. It seems that the purging of these websites, users, etc., often happens en masse every now and then as well.
The Most Recent Crackdown on Porn in China
While it may not be as big of a year as it was in 2010, it does seem that 2014 is seeing quite a lot of cracking down on pornography in China as well. After all, the State Internet Information Office declared that they are indeed cracking down on this content – this is a major component in the Cleaning the Web 2014 campaign.
So What Damage Has Been Done So Far?
Around 110 websites have been closed down. This may seem like nothing, but it’s a lot easier to blindly shut down tens of thousands of websites at once just because they are obvious porn websites. When newly indexed websites show up or older websites find a way to beat the system from the get-go, that’s when “every website counts” comes into play.
WeChat and Sina Weibo are just two of the social networking websites that were also affected by the 3,300 accounts that were closed on social networks due to their explicit content or information.
Yeah, that’s right… information on pornography is not allowed either. That’s why nearly 7,000 ads got the boot. It’s also why an astonishing 200,000 plus articles published online were blocked by China.
These continuous efforts come as no surprise though. China has always been very selective on what can be viewed through the Internet in their country. In fact, a man in Beijing ended up getting sentenced to three years after he created a rumor through Sina Weibo.
How Does Chinese Porn Still Get Out?
This is where it gets interesting. Pornography produced in China is illegal and content accessed in China is illegal.
This has led to people being creative with how they distribute and view these films, and it’s surprisingly not that difficult for it to get out. It gets out via the Internet.
VPNs and Pornography
Film studios don’t want to run the risk of losing their license, being sent to jail for up to three years, or being fined 20,000 Yuan. They especially don’t want to get big enough to be tried for a life imprisonment if caught.
After seeing so many people get arrested, those that are serious about distributing adult content to people in China need to do things a bit differently. As the content is being directly uploaded from their computer to the Internet, it becomes important to mask the connection. This will ensure that any uploaded content cannot be traced back to their IP and how do they do this? With a VPN.
It’s not just about the distributors though. While it’s hard to charge someone for accessing pornographic content, China can easily lay down the law if they find you in possession. What qualifies as possession? If you save a picture or your computer happens to save temporary Internet files containing certain images from adult websites that you’ve viewed, then you’re screwed.
So a VPN becomes useful for the average person, in order to avoid censorship laws in China. While the worthiness of pornography is debatable, freedom to access this content is hard to argue as unfair in any way. So you can continue to expect, as China furthers their pornography crackdown, that many people will resort to VPNs to sidestep the Chinese government.